A new report published by the American Institutes for Research suggests that North Carolina’s testing standards are not comparable to the rigorous National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) achievement levels.

In “National Benchmarks for State Achievement Standards,” Gary Phillips concludes that, despite Common Core’s promise of uniformity and increased rigor, “achievement standards among states still vary widely, with only a handful as rigorous as the Proficient standard on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.”

First, it is important to note that NAEP tests assess reading and math proficiency in grades 4 and 8 only.  Second, NAEP has three achievement levels – Basic, Proficient, and Advanced.  NAEP ‘s Proficient achievement level indicates career and college readiness.

North Carolina’s testing program has five achievement levels.  Students who reach Level 3 demonstrate grade-level proficiency, while students who reach Level 4 are considered career and college ready.  As a result, we would expect North Carolina’s Level 3 to be roughly equivalent to NAEP’s Basic level.  North Carolina’s Level 4 should align with NAEP’s Proficient level.

Phillips found that in all cases, North Carolina’s Level 3 was at NAEP’s Basic level.  And, with one exception (fourth-grade math), North Carolina’s Level 2 fell below the Basic level.  So far, so good.

Unfortunately, North Carolina’s Level 4 standards, which again should be comparable to NAEP’s Proficient level, remained at NAEP Basic levels.

In other words, North Carolina’s testing standards are not as rigorous as NAEP.  Only a handful of states (Florida, New York, and Kansas) had college-readiness standards that were similar to the NAEP Proficient level in at least three of the four grades/subjects examined.